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Category Archives: Covert Action

Tinker, Tailor, Leaker, Spy: The Future Costs of Mass Leaks

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Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 6:35 PM

I just came across this excellent article, “Tinker, Tailor, Leaker, Spy: The Future Costs of Mass Leaks,” by David V. Gioe, a former CIA operations officer and a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge.  His question is not about the effect of the Snowden and Manning leaks on past activities, but on the deterrence . . .
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Most Snowden Documents Concern Current U.S. Military Operations

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Friday, January 10, 2014 at 11:37 AM

One hears that the worst of the Snowden documents (from the perspective of the USG) have not yet been released, and one wonders what that might mean.  Yesterday’s story that “most of the documents he took concerned current military operations” might provide the beginning of an answer (though I expect that another part of the answer is . . .
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Assessing the Review Group Recommendations: Part III

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:54 PM

In Parts I and II of this series, I focused on the Review Group recommendations from Chapter III of the group’s report. Starting in this post, I turn to the recommendations of Chapter IV, which deal with collection under Section 702 and other authorities directed at non-US persons. This is, to my mind, one of the . . .
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Covert Action and International Law Compliance

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Last night Jack highlighted certain parts of Caroline Krass’s answers to the Additional Prehearing Questions that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence posed to her.  One of her answers will be of particular interest to international lawyers. One SSCI question asked, “Under what circumstances must covert action involving the use of force comply with treaties . . .
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Thoughts About the Obama Administration’s Counterterrorism Paradigm in Light of the Al-Liby and Ikrima Operations

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Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Mary DeRosa and Marty Lederman, both of whom were senior national security lawyers in the Obama administration, have a helpful if somewhat hopeful post at Just Security on the significance of the recent al-Liby and Ikrima capture operations.  The post is long, but I would summarize it as follows (this is my summary, not theirs): . . .
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Ending the End-of-War Timeline

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Monday, October 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Nine or so months ago, following  President Obama’s inaugural address assertion that a “decade of war is now ending,” which came on the heels of Jeh Johnson’s speech about the end of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, Lawfare started the “End-of-War” Timeline.  We felt pretty firmly, as I wrote at the time, that “War is not ending; it is continuing, . . .
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Is the “Covert Action” in Syria Actually a Covert Action?

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Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 3:26 PM

I have noted how openly the United States has been leaking information about its covert action to support moderate Syrian rebels – from its inception through the supposed recent ramp-up.  I notice via a post by Marcy Wheeler that the ostensible covert action was discussed openly and explicitly by senior Executive branch officials – the . . .
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Two Notes on Secrecy v. Transparency in the National Security World

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Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Two pieces in the news worth noting on the issue of secrecy v. transparency in the U.S. intelligence world.  First, The Guardian reports that former DRNSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden said in London: “It’s clear to me now that in liberal democracies the security services don’t get to do what they do without broad public understanding . . .
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The Long, Classified War

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 9:21 AM

A recent cluster of stories – on al Qaeda’s growth, dispersion, and resilience, on the USG’s increased use of surveillance drones outside of “hot war zones,” on the USG possibly ramping up secret war in Somalia, and on the covert action to arm certain Syrian rebels – got me wondering about the debate in May on the proper scope of the AUMF.  . . .
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Tools and Tradeoffs: Confronting U.S. Citizen Terrorist Suspects Abroad

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Today, the Brookings Institution released a lengthy paper my colleague Daniel Byman and I have been working on for some time, entitled “Tools and Tradeoffs: Confronting U.S. Citizen Terrorist Suspects Abroad.” The Brookings release is available here. The full report is available here.  We will release audio of the launch event, which was hosted by our colleague . . .
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The Remarkably Open Syrian Covert Action

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 12:30 PM

There are at least three noteworthy elements in the WP’s story this morning about intelligence committee “approval” of “CIA weapons shipments to opposition fighters in Syria.” First is the fact that the intelligence committees “voted on the administration’s plan” last week.  An intelligence committee vote is not typically a prerequisite to a covert action.  Under the covert . . .
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Blaming (or Crediting) the Lawyers for Our Syria Policy

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Monday, July 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

This morning both the WSJ (behind paywall) and NYT have stories on how law and lawyers have influenced the changing USG posture on intervening in Syria.  The gist of the WSJ story is that administration lawyers, apparently relying on the ICJ Nicaragua Case, pushed back against policy makers who called for “more assertive U.S. action . . .
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Important New Oversight Legislation for Military Kill/Capture Outside Afghanistan

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Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:24 AM

Big news out of the House Armed Services Committee: Representative Mac Thornberry (a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, I proudly note) is going to introduce a bill enhancing oversight of kill/capture operations that may be conducted by the armed forces outside of Afghanistan.  [UPDATE: Full disclosure: I gave comments on an early . . .
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Bradley & Goldsmith Supplement for Foreign Relations Law

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Curtis Bradley and I have a casebook on foreign relations law that includes a heavy dose of national security law (including chapters on covert action and targeted killing) that might be of interest to Lawfare readers.  Here is a TOC for the book.  And here, hot off the press, is our latest Supplement.  It includes excerpts of the Supreme Court’s . . .
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Mali, the Way of the Knife, and Working “By, With, and Through” Others

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 7:04 PM

While we are on the subject of Mark Mazzetti’s The Way of the Knife, and for that matter while we are speaking of Mali, check out this Washington Post report on U.S. boots being on the ground in Mali after all. It was already clear, of course, that Mali nicely illustrated both a key concern . . .
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“Carrying Arms Openly,” Drones, and Covert Action

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 12:31 AM

Jens David Ohlin (Cornell) has an interesting post up at LieberCode in which he discusses a range of LOAC issues raised by CIA involvement in drone strikes.  Jens raises the question whether CIA personnel involved in drone strikes can qualify for combat immunity.  Building from the premise that this question turns on compliance with the . . .
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Thoughts on Possible End to CIA Targeted Killing

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:53 PM

As Jack mentioned, Dan Klaidman of the Daily Beast reported today that “the White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA’s lethal targeting program to the Defense Department.” Over at ForeignPolicy.com, I just published a brief essay on this matter.  In short: Many critics of the government’s targeted killing . . .
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D.C. Circuit Rejects Glomar Response in ACLU/CIA Drone FOIA Suit

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Friday, March 15, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Pretty big decision by the D.C. Circuit this morning, reversing the district court’s dismissal of the ACLU’s drone-related FOIA suit against the CIA on the ground that the Agency’s “Glomar response” was not justified. (Jack previewed and Wells recapped the oral argument back in September.) As Chief Judge Garland wrote for the court, Given [the various] . . .
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Poland to Drop CIA Black Site Prosecution?

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Monday, February 25, 2013 at 4:43 PM

I have posted previously about a criminal investigation in Poland targeting the former head of Poland’s intelligence service, based on his alleged cooperation in establishing a CIA black site on Polish territory. It appears now that charges will be dropped.

Observations About Targeting and Congressional Intelligence Oversight

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Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 5:06 PM

The recent controversy about the Justice Department White Paper and the closely related Senate confirmation hearings for CIA director-nominee John Brennan have raised the profile of congressional intelligence oversight.  A brief summary of some of these issues is this Politico article, and for those interested in a great general analysis of intelligence oversight and its . . .
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